Thursday, April 19, 2018
Transportation

Carlton: We need a mind-shift about transit

I was on an early morning story in downtown Tampa when I saw it.

A trolley rolled by — not one of those historic yellow electric streetcars that run to Ybor City, but a more purposeful rubber-wheeled bus gussied up like a trolley and trundling toward downtown's tall buildings.

And did I just see public transportation downtown that made sense? A way to ferry folks between offices, hotels, events and meetings through the workday at regular intervals you could count on? An option for we workers who often drive miles to lunch because it's too far to walk, or too hot, or too dicey to try to find a parking space downtown?

We don't do transit very well here. It's taking the equivalent of an international summit just to try to get a public shuttle bus from downtown Tampa to the airport. Construction has rendered Interstate 275 into a Busch Gardens thrill ride, except scarier. And yes, we did just score $4.8 million in federal funds toward a high-speed ferry service, which is great, although probably not our most pressing transit need. And buses have long been treated like the transportation of last resort rather than a smart option for a workforce.

When I started thinking about it, I realized I'd seen this trolley now and again and heard mention here and there. Turns out the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority does indeed run the In-Town Trolley every 15 minutes on a logical route that takes in major office buildings, hotels and the convention center, at a most modest fare of 25 cents. What's not to like?

Then, I saw the hours — 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. As in, idle when most downtown workers are out and about.

Hmm.

The current city administration is all about building a downtown that's vibrant and visitor- and resident-friendly, and what's friendlier than being able to get where you're going? Notably, downtown Tampa has sprouted many restaurants since the days of the world's saddest McDonald's and the late-night Subway — deli, Spanish, Vietnamese, Jamaican, Thai, New York, organic pizza. In this, downtown's got chops.

"We used to have all-day (trolley) service — kind of ironically — before we had the plethora of restaurants," Karen Kress of the Downtown Tampa Partnership says.

And when I ask a handful of fellow downtowners about their trolley knowledge, nearly everyone thought I was talking about that streetcar to Ybor.

HART spokeswoman Sandra Morrison says hours for the trolleys were cut in 2011 after "poor ridership and budget concerns," and that it would cost about $90,000 to expand those hours. The city pays $200,000 to run the current service yearly.

Hillsborough Commissioner and transit proponent Mark Sharpe sighs when I call. (He does that a lot when I call.) "I was shocked to find out — and I'm on HART's board — that we had one," he says of the in-town trolley service.

Changing how we view buses — and just as important, how we sell them to potential riders — will take a "cultural mind-shift," Sharpe says. He's right, and transportation types will tell you they are working on downtown as we speak.

But give us convenient, logical ways to get around — and make sure we actually know about them — and I say we're ready to ride.

Comments
She calmly landed the Southwest flight and broke barriers as a fighter pilot

She calmly landed the Southwest flight and broke barriers as a fighter pilot

The pilot’s voice was calm yet focused as her plane descended with 149 people on board."Southwest 1380, we’re single engine," Tammie Jo Shults, a former fighter pilot with the U.S. Navy, said. "We have part of the aircraft missing so we’re going to n...
Published: 04/18/18
Carlton: Thanks, Gov. Scott, for the dreaded trip across Interstate 4

Carlton: Thanks, Gov. Scott, for the dreaded trip across Interstate 4

The other day I had to go to Orlando from Tampa on Interstate 4, which has to be one of the most disliked highways in Florida. And I say this as someone who learned to drive on Miami’s I-95.It turned out to be the same root canal of a trip we’ve come...
Published: 04/18/18
NTSB: Blown Southwest jet engine showed ‘metal fatigue’

NTSB: Blown Southwest jet engine showed ‘metal fatigue’

PHILADELPHIA — A preliminary examination of the blown jet engine of the Southwest Airlines plane that set off a terrifying chain of events and left a businesswoman hanging half outside a shattered window showed evidence of "metal fatigue," according ...
Published: 04/18/18
Group promoting road safety out in force on 56th Street Monday

Group promoting road safety out in force on 56th Street Monday

TEMPLE TERRACE — If all goes as planned on Monday (April 23), at least 100 people will line the sides of one of the most dangerous stretches in Hillsborough County — 56th Street between Sligh Avenue and Busch Boulevard — in an effort to get motorists...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Big dig’s big cost: Pasco tunnel idea carries $550 million price tag

Big dig’s big cost: Pasco tunnel idea carries $550 million price tag

NEW PORT RICHEY — Construction costs to tunnel under U.S. 41 in central Pasco could top a half-billion dollars, four times the projected price of building elevated lanes above the highway’s intersection with State Road 54.The cost estimate, said Comm...
Published: 04/17/18
Dr. Delay: How to find out if you qualify for a speed hump; updates on the Pinellas Bayway

Dr. Delay: How to find out if you qualify for a speed hump; updates on the Pinellas Bayway

I live in St. Pete and would like to know how I could go about getting a speed hump installed on my street. Where do I start?Manuel Reyes, St. PetersburgThe place to start would be by contacting the St. Petersburg Neighborhood Transportation Manager,...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
He got fed up with Miami traffic, so now he commutes with dolphins and pelicans

He got fed up with Miami traffic, so now he commutes with dolphins and pelicans

Parker Lake got sick of the rat race. Sick of working in a cubicle. Sick of commuting on Miami’s mean streets. Sick of being overweight from sitting at a desk or in traffic jams.So Lake quit his unfulfilling job, sold his car and moved to a house on ...
Published: 04/09/18
A sixth person killed by the high-speed Brightline train in Florida

A sixth person killed by the high-speed Brightline train in Florida

The Brightline train fatally struck a man Sunday, bringing the total killed by the train to six people since it began test runs last year.The Delray Beach Police Department announced on Twitter that a pedestrian was hit Sunday by a northbound Brightl...
Published: 04/09/18
Dr. Delay: Will the lights at 87th Avenue N and Fourth Street cause extra congestion?

Dr. Delay: Will the lights at 87th Avenue N and Fourth Street cause extra congestion?

Massive new street signals were erected at the intersection of 87th Avenue N. and Fourth Street, just four blocks north from the light-controlled intersection at 83rd Avenue N. At the same time a new WaWa store/gas station is being constructed near 8...
Published: 04/09/18
Hillsborough hates tollways. Pinellas can’t wait to drive on them.

Hillsborough hates tollways. Pinellas can’t wait to drive on them.

For years, anger, confusion and controversy have swirled around the state’s plan to add 90 miles of toll lanes to Tampa Bay’s interstates.Many opposed the toll lanes from the start, calling the fluctuating tolls "Lexus lanes" that only serve those wh...
Published: 04/07/18